On Romance Novels

I read a lot of books, that surprises no one. If you browse my lists each month, you probably have a good idea of what I read. I used to read anything. Everything. If you put it in front of me, I’d read it. I don’t do that anymore. Now I know what I like and I only read those books. Why waste my time if I don’t like it? I figure there are millions of books I will never have time to read, so I should never bother with a book I don’t want to read or do not like.

I read a lot of teen books these days. Teen fiction, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, romance, thriller. Pretty much anything teen, I’ll try it out. I also read adult sci-fi, but not a ton. And I’ll read adult fiction. I do read some adult fantasy. My bread and butter, however, is romance. I was around 11 years old when I read my first romance (no, I don’t remember what it was) and I loved it. Love the genre.

Romance really comes in so many styles. There are historical romances. Then sub-genres of Scottish, Medieval, Regency, Victorian, Gothic, literary, and old West. Then there are category romances. These are the Harlequin and Silhouette romances, the slimmer books, the ones with the “join for a penny and we’ll send you a book a month” adverts in them. The ones classified as “trashy” by most non-romance readers. And contemporary romance, which has sub-genres of thriller, mystery, humor, sweet, erotic, Western, Amish (I’m sure these have a name, but they are stories that are pure. No sex, no kissing. The characters are frequently Amish, so I call them Amish romance, but I bet they have a real name) and probably more I’m not thinking of right now. Then there are sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal romance novels. And time travel romance is a genre all to itself.

First, I bet you had no idea romance was such a hugely vast genre. I have read books in every singe one of these categories. I’ve tried every type of romance that exists. I’ve got my favorites, and those I don’t like much (Amish, Gothic, Regency, Victorian, contemporary mystery, I really don’t read these any more.) My favorites tend to be subject to trends and change. I was heavy into historical romance for years. Like, most of my 20s. Then I did paranormal for a while. I still read paranormals, but they are now restricted to my favorite authors (Kresley Cole). I will, of course, still read an historical, but I don’t search them out. But if an author I like puts out a new book (Julia Quinn), I’ll snatch it right up. However, these days I mostly read contemporary romance. It’s a tougher genre for me, because it is so wide and encompassing, which means there is a lot of garbage. I read as many bad romance books as I do good ones it sometimes seems.

I have no idea how many books I’ve read in my life, the number would be very, very high. But I can conservatively estimate that I have read thousandS of romance novels in my life. Literally more than one thousand romance novels, honestly, probably more than double that.

The reason a lot of people don’t like romance is because they think it is trite or formulaic, and it is. No doubt. Romance novels follow a pattern, use tropes, have similar threads. And, let’s face it, they all end with a happily ever after, so there’s not really a surprise. But, that is exactly what I like about them. You know what to expect, so it falls to the author to find a way to engage me with the story, a story, that I’ve read a thousand times before. It’s a challenge. Sometimes it’s the writing, or a strong character, or a unique bent to the story, but if it’s a good one, it will capture me and suck me in, until I don’t mind the fact that I’ve read variations before.

Now, as I said, I know what I don’t like. I am generally not a huge fan of erotic romances. I have no problem with sex in a book, but I like it to be part of the story. Enhancing the love story of the characters, or causing them trouble or something. Not big on gratuitous sex, and every erotic romance I’ve ever read has felt that way, like the author is just showing off how clever he or she can be and how graphic they can make it. So, when I read a recommendation of an erotic romance, by an author I was unfamiliar with, I nearly dismissed it. But the recommendation was written so strongly in favor of this book, I found myself reluctantly intrigued.

The book is called Broken and it is by Megan Hart. I downloaded it from the library when I got home from work yesterday and started it. I was in the middle of another book that I wasn’t particularly enjoying, so I picked this up. It’s very sexual, and very graphic, but it was the story that truly caught my attention.

Quite simply, I had never read another book like this one. Try to imagine that. With all the romance books I’ve read, that I can still find a book that is unlike any other? I was astonished by this. The story was completely original, it didn’t follow the typical pattern for romances. In fact, it was so far off book, I actually did not know how it would end. Yes, there was a lot of sex, but it was used to tell the story, to the point that it became entertaining and moved the story forward.

In short (ha! that’s probably the wrong choice of words in a 1,000 word post), I absolutely loved this book. I was blown away by its originality. And I loved how it ended. If you recall, endings are somewhat of a sticking point for me, but not this one. I loved the way this book ended. It was perfect for the story.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m not, really. I’m telling me. This book made me feel so great after reading it that I wanted to remember, and to remind myself that while I have a great understanding of genre fiction, it never hurts to take a risk and try something new. It can pay off with a new favorite book. And, I suppose, for anyone out there who was wondering what an erotic romance my be like, try this one. Because it’s also a terrific story. But mostly, because I wanted to write a love letter to the romance novel. That’s why.

4 thoughts on “On Romance Novels

    • Honestly? I don’t know. You’re getting more complicated as you age so it’s harder to predict. And you don’t read a lot of fiction…or romance, BUT you did like 50 shades of Grey, which is an erotic romance. (Barely). And you are really open minded about new things.

      So, you know what, I say, it couldn’t hurt you to try it. I’m actually buying a copy from Amazon. I liked it enough to add to my permanent collection. I will loan it to you.

      • I have no idea of how 50 Shades is “hardly” erotic or romance, but you know your genres. I have enjoyed fiction in the past and am getting sick of memoirs. And I’m getting more complicated?!?!? What an interesting statement. Please elaborate. Maybe not at this forum but in life sometime. And I’m really open minded about new things made me laugh. Was that sarcastic? Most people say the opposite about me…but you seem to know me best;-)

      • I think we both know I see you very differently than the rest of the world does.

        And I will elaborate on both of those statements the next time we hang out. Which should be soon.

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